By now, everyone has had a chance to enjoy the bye week. Some Eagles fans enjoyed it SO much, they even tailgated outside The Linc before realizing it was the bye! But, in any event, as fans, we can all catch our collective breath, and get ready for an exciting homestretch of games that will decide the Eagles playoff hopes.
Now, in the span of Sunday, the Eagles went from first place in the division, to a wild card, to out of the playoffs, and they didn’t play one down. That’s OK. That’s life in the NFL, right? One week, you’re up, the next, well, you’re fighting to stay relevant. But, after enduring last season, sitting 6-5 right now is not a bad place to be. And, since they missed out on the playoffs last season, then, as Eagles fans, these next few games are going to be like playoffs within the season, so, we’ll get the best of both worlds, really.
Next week, Arizona comes to town, sporting a shiny 7-4 record, and coming off a thrashing of the Colts in their building. Now, people can say they beat the Colts because of head coach Bruce Arians’ intimate knowledge of their system. OK, so a coach knows some tricks, and uses them to his advantage. That’s his job, right? But, the Cardinals are trying to keep pace in a division that, everyone predicted at the start of the season, would be decided by either San Francisco or Seattle. Now, following the 49ers win last night, the Cardinals and 49ers are tied for second place in the NFC West. This gives the Cardinals extra incentive to perform well down the stretch. Their schedule is favorable, as well. They have the Eagles this Sunday, but, games against the Rams and at Tennessee, two teams that are reeling, to say the least.
So again, this Sunday, the Eagles will head into a game with playoff implications, something that certainly couldn’t be said last season. And, when these two teams met last season, in Arizona, it was an absolute disaster. The stakes are very high for the Eagles in this game. Defend home field. By Sunday, they’ll also know if they can pass Dallas to re-take the NFC East lead, since the Cowboys will be in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders.
After that game, speaking of disasters from last season, the Eagles will welcome in the Detroit Lions, who lead their division, sporting an identical 6-5 record as the Eagles. Last year’s game against the Lions, where, for some reason, the defense played 10-15 yards off Calvin Johnson? Again…..let’s not go too far into that one, please. From there, the Eagles will travel to Minnesota, a team that has been tough as of late, but just can’t find the right combination to make it all fit, and turn it into wins. After Minnesota, the Bears come to town. By this time, we’ll find out if this will be a battle for playoff seeding, or, if both teams will be playing out the string. The Bears didn’t look too bad last week with Josh McCown at the controls, but, losing to the Rams on the road was just a bad loss for them. If Jay Cutler is back for them, this game could be interesting.
And finally, we have the final week of the season. Again, this could be a game that decides the NFC East division title. What better way to end the season than to also take the Cowboys’ playoff hopes back to Philadelphia? What better way to reclaim the division than to do it in the building of one of your biggest rivals? And, what better way to start the New Year would it be for the Eagles, than to do all of this, all the while, watching the TV cameras pan to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ box, looking as if he just ate a plate of lemons?
It all sets up well. A 5-game mini-playoff run for the Eagles to prove their mettle. Injuries are no excuse at this point. Every team has them. It’s time for every man in that locker room to step up and prove they belong. Because, everyone knows…….just get IN the playoffs. From there, anything can happen. You just have to get their first. And it all starts this Sunday, with Arizona. Go take it, Eagles.